Sunday, August 19, 2012

Grinds My Gears: Overvaluing Preseason Football (Or Any Sport)

Been a while since I've had a reason to bring this back but this past week or so reminded me about something that has bugged me for years. Why do we place so much value on a preseason performance or game?

Every year, you hear "So-and-so is making their professional debut" but it's in a PRESEASON game. Andrew Luck, for example, played his first game as a professional last week and threw for a TD on his first pass. That's great but it's not his debut. It doesn't count in his stat sheet. Yes he got paid for it like everyone else but it's no different than a scrimmage in pads.

Same with Robert Griffin, Justin Blackmon or any 2012 draft pick. These preseason games are great auditions but they are just paid scrimmages. They won't be playing most of the game and until the later games, they won't be playing against the starters they'll be facing most of their rookie year. There's no telling if they'll put up these numbers on Sunday and if they do, then we'll start talking.

The stats that folks put up in preseason is great but it's not always a reveal of how well they'll perform in the regular season. Teams can have winning records in the preseason and it means nothing in the regular season. In 1993, Emmitt Smith held out the entire preseason and missed the first 2 games. You know what he did? Win the rushing title and later on the Super Bowl MVP.

The 2008 Detroit Lions were 4-0 in the preseason. They followed that up going 0-16 in the regular season.

Can you tell me who led last year's preseason in passing yards, rushing yards, scoring? No. Because, to borrow from The Rock, "IT DOESN'T MATTER!!" When my beloved Cowboys and Chargers faced off Saturday, where was I? At my pastor's appreciation banquet and I didn't check the score once. Why? Cause wins and losses don't matter in preseason.

Another point. Since when did preseason games warrant so much national TV coverage? It's further proof that football is king but seriously? If you like watching 2nd-3rd string folks get good shine, then good on you. Otherwise, I'll just watch Sportscenter or catch the beat/national writers for their thoughts.

The 3rd problem is that some NFL owners charge regular season prices for preseason games. They know football is king so they jack up the prices and what do fans get? Full season prices for essentially a SCRIMMAGE in pads where they don't get to see the stars for more than a quarter or two.

A NFL lockout cartoon from last year that's still applicable. Why change when they get paid majorly for it.

The same thing can apply to the NBA summer league, preseason basketball, spring football scrimmages, fall practice scrimmages and spring training. I'm supposed to get excited about a backup quarterback playing well when I know he won't probably see much regular action unless there's an injury or a blowout.

4th point. When a backup does well, there's always talk of a QB controversy. Because a back-up having a great day vs. the 2nd and 3rd string automatically means he can do against the first string with a game plan against him. I dislike preseason because it's fools gold and gives people something to talk about when really it's not worth a discussion (i.e. Kirk Cousins' great day yesterday means RG3's job is in jeopardy - riiiiiiiight.)

And just so you know, I've felt this way since high school. I got conned by reading too much into preseason performances and when I realized it didn't translate to regular season greatness, I stopped reading much into it. The stakes got higher but I stayed even-keeled.

This is what preseason is good for. Coaches, analysts and fans to analyze how rookies/free agents look. Position battles to get cleared up. Nothing more, nothing less. If you invite me to a game, I might go but it's not the same feeling as watching a regular season game. I don't leave feeling like I learned much that will help me judge how the season will actually go.

I definitely don't care who wins or loses because it doesn't matter in the regular season. It's not a real debut because it doesn't go into their career stats. Ask yourself if you remember Cam Newton's 1st preseason game or his 1st NFL regular season game. The answer is telling.

Enjoy watching Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III in preseason. I'll be glancing until the season starts next month.
So to all the pundits, writers, fans - I know football is king. I know people can't wait for their football fix like fiends outside a drug house (or Yogurtland). But let's get back to putting preseason in its proper place. I know it won't happen so don't be mad when I tell you that I could care less until they strap on the pads when it counts.

Besides, the only preseason games that matter are the final ones when the starters get more burn.

*Speaking of football I'd like to remind you that the Weekly Football Wrap (which runs every Tuesday during football season) will be returning on Sept 3 after Week 1 of the College FB season. HS football starts this week in SoCal so stay tuned because I'll be sharing my thoughts every Friday night/Saturday morning on Twitter on the games out here*

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